The son of Selden Marvin and Charlotte (Pratt) Marvin, William was born on April 14, 1808, in Fairfield, New York. Raised on his family’s farm, he attended the Homer Academy and after graduating at the age of 15, began teaching school. After studying with a local attorney, he was admitted to the New York Bar in 1833, and practiced in Phelps, New York until 1835.
He left his New York practice for an appointment to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Territory and served until 1839. In 1837, he was a delegate to the Florida Constitutional Convention of 1838-1839. From 1839 to 1845 he was a Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida Territory. Once he left the bench, he resumed his law practice in Key West.
President James K. Polk nominated Marvin on March 2, 1847, to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. This was a new judgeship and he was confirmed by the United States on March 3, 1847 and received his commission the same day. Remaining loyal to the Union during the American Civil War, his judicial services were terminated on July 1, 1863, when he retired. While he was on the bench, he also served as the mayor of Key West in 1861.
Upon his retirement from the federal bench, he moved to New York City and resumed his private law practice. With the end of the American Civil War, President Andrew Johnson appointed him as provisional Governor of Florida. He served from July 13, 1865, to December 20, 1865. During this time, he oversaw Florida’s effort to repeal its secession ordinance and prepare to rejoin the Union.
In 1866, he was a United States Senator-elect, but the Senate refused to seat him as Florida had not yet been readmitted to the Union. He moved back to Key West and served a second term as mayor.
During the Reconstruction, Marvin left Florida for Skaneateles, New York, and continued to practice law. Active in Democratic Party politics, he served as president of the village of Skaneateles. He ran several unsuccessful campaigns for the New York State Senate and as a delegate to the 1894 state constitutional convention.
Marvin married Harriet Newell Foote in 1846, daughter of Judge Elisha Foote. Together they had a daughter Harriet, who was the wife of the United States Army, General Marshall I. Ludington. Harriett passed away in 1848. In 1867, he married Elizabeth Riddle Jewett of Skaneateles.
After a full life, on July 9, 1902, Marvin passed away at the age of 96 in Skaneateles and is buried at Lake View Cemetery in Skaneateles.
The photographer is unknown and is part of the Florida Photographic Collection.